Marketing Manager, Brand Strategist, Social Media Director
Welcome to foglyte!
Here you'll find a collection of my thoughts and observations on marketing strategies, social media, community building, and branding. Hope you find something worth your time here. Cheers!
My next challenge has arrived, and oh what a challenge it will be.
It’s certainly no secret that I have a passion for the digital space, and all it entails. I see digital (web, internet, online, or whatever you want to call it) as a marketing battleground of equal or greater importance to any other that exists. We humans spend a huge amount of time with our faces glued to screens of various sizes; consuming, sharing, interacting, engaging, ranting, raving, recommending, and questioning. For a business to deny this fact simply ensures its demise, be it fast or slow.
Beyond that, however, advancements in digital over the last several years have enabled us to forge relationships between businesses and customers that were at the very least highly improbable, if not impossible. What used to take place within the confines of a businesses walls, or in the isolation of a one-to-one phone call, now takes place online, across multiple social channels, in full view of the world. Now, you can interact with a business online as if they were an old friend, and businesses in turn can in turn take advantage of word-of-mouth on an unprecedented scale. Local businesses can have global impact, and global brands have the ability to relate to customers on a local level. Lines have blurred, and in my opinion, it’s better for everyone.
Over the last several years, my career in marketing for an industrial B2B equipment manufacturer has evolved dramatically. Way back in the distant year of 2003, we used to play almost entirely in traditional media. Print ads in trade mags, directories and guidebooks, trade shows, etc. The web was typically just a supporting piece. An online catalog, in essence. Over time though, we saw a huge shift over to digital as the main resource for anyone researching potential suppliers like us. Being findable online was no longer an option, even for well-established B2B brands. You had to be present, and your presence had to be awesome enough to hit page 1 of Google’s results.
Then social media came along, and things changed again. Your website is now just one touchpoint in the digital space. Your blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn presence, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc, are all now weighed and measured against everyone else’s, and your relevance is calculated by factors out of your control. Namely, Google’s algorithm and the opinions of the people your customers talk to. Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.
While initially apprehensive on how an industrial manufacturer could really capitalize on these new channels, we made the decision to go for it in 2010, and the benefits of it became apparent almost immediately. The reasons were pretty obvious, even in the early stages of businesses using social media and content marketing. Who would read an ad when you could read a blog article that actually helps you solve a problem? Who pulls out a 2000 page directory when Google sorts the most relevant businesses for you? How would your business stack up if you’re the one who willingly helped a customer BEFORE they were ready to buy? Hmm…. I wonder.
We interwove social actions and content marketing in to our existing marketing efforts. We integrated social tools in to the website, published more content of a variety of types, expanded our presence at industry events, forged stronger relationships with customers, and connected with the community.
Fast forward to 2014. Content marketing, inbound marketing, and social marketing now play a huge role for almost every business, even industrial B2B niche brands. It doesn’t matter if you sell a $10 widget or a $1 million piece of machinery, customers want to know that you’re the most relevant. Period. Content marketing accomplishes this, but only if done right. The question each business now faces is this; What is our ‘right way’ to do content marketing?
Which brings me to the entire reason for this post; I’m moving on. I’m now going to be completely immersed in the world of content, social, and inbound marketing. I’ve accepted a gig as a marketing strategist and content architect at gShift, a company that has developed an incredible software tool that not only enables businesses to compile all their web presence stats in one powerful dashboard, but also enables them to overcome many of the obstacles currently plaguing marketers in the digital space. Struggling with the ‘not provided’ situation Google has thrust on you? gShift’s software can help. Under pressure to prove impact and ROI from your content marketing? gShift’s software can help. Want to know how your web presence stacks up against your mortal enemies? gShift’s software can help.
I’m pumped to begin this new challenge and be a member of the team that is at the forefront of developing the tools and techniques that businesses use to connect more effectively with their customers, become more findable online, and build a thriving brand. I believe that businesses who approach content marketing in the right way, and truly understand the impact that they can have in their industry by changing their mindset to deliver real value in their marketing, will be the ones that customers desire to do business with above all others. That’s the goal, and it’s an admirable one.
And now, onward! To total immersion!
Check out the awesomeness that is gShift -> http://gshiftlabs.com
People ain’t searching the way they used to. It’s a fact. Google doesn’t arbitrarily change their algorithms just because they ‘feel like it’. They do it because they’ve got endless piles of data that tell them how you’re searching, and they constantly tweak their system to deliver the most relevant results.
The most recent update to Google’s world famous/infamous algorithm (Hummingbird, for those of you keeping track) is mostly about ‘semantic’ search (aka: conversational search). In it’s simplest terms, semantic search is more like asking an actual question instead of just plugging in keywords.
For example: “hotels Toronto” vs. “What are the best boutique hotels in downtown Toronto?”
Semantic search queries have additional qualifiers beyond the basic subject. Words like best, closest, cheapest, fastest, etc. get at the root of what KIND of products and services the searcher is actually hunting for. Adding qualifiers to the base keywords creates what is known as ‘long-tail’ searches. These long-tail searches are looking for much more targeted, refined results. This is where the real opportunity presents itself for businesses. Get found for long-tail searches, serve up quality content that solves the searchers problem, and you’ve immediately delivered real value to a potential customer.
How do you make this work for your business? It’s actually a pretty simple formula.
1) Start with a powerful question - Think of the questions your business gets asked every day. What are the frustrations your customers have when evaluating alternatives & choosing products? What knowledge or experience do you have that can alleviate these frustrations? Choose a clearly defined question that originates from the point-of-view of your customers. The key to long-tail search is being a problem solver, so solve THEIR problems, not yours.
2) Write in your customers language - Your company may make the coolest widgets complete with MegaWidget® technology now available in colours like Arctic White™ and Fierce Red™, but none of those proprietary or trademarked words are going to make their way in to your customers search vocabulary. Long-tail search can only be unlocked if the language matches up. Your content needs to be crafted to read in the same manner that your customers talk. Use their terms, not yours.
3) Optimize & maximize - Once you’ve picked a valid question, and written a solid answer in the language that your customers understand, you need to make the piece of content visually readable & optimized. This includes a lot of little things that add up to make a big difference. Break out key points in to bold sub headers or lists, add in supporting images & graphics, embed related content like videos or tweets, link to related content in the body through keywords or phrases, provide a few options at the end for additional content that might be useful. All of these things give your content more weight, and deliver more value to the reader.
4) Put it here, there, and everywhere - You’ve got your content ready to release in to the world, and the time has come. Hit publish and spread it out to all relevant channels. If your community consumes content in various places then make sure this shows up in each of them, but be sure to tailor the share/post to fit the style of the place it’s being shared. Cookie-cutter repetition usually doesn’t jive when you’re dealing with different platforms and formats.
5) Repeat - Great job! You’ve now published a solid piece of content that will reap the rewards of targeted long-tail searches. Now do it again, again, and again. Sorry, but this is how it works. Do it for each and every relevant long-tail search you can think of that you are able to produce and deliver valuable, helpful content. Each question you answer and each problem you solve builds up your brand as the industry expert, as a solution provider, and as the preferred choice.
It’s a long road to go down, but the benefits of being found not just for ‘keywords’, but for solutions to well-defined problems are massive. The most crucial factor of the long-tail search is that it hinges on your ability to deliver value at first sight. You need a legit solution to the question being asked. Solve the problem, and you’ve delivered the value. Search is getting smarter all the time, and so should your content. This is what long-tail is all about; smarter searches, smarter content.
Molson Canadian has always been an iconic brand up here north of the 49th. The now legendary “I AM CANADIAN” rant is ingrained in our national heritage as ‘much more than a commercial’. It was a rallying cry for Canucks around the world to raise a glass and toast to what a freakin’ awesome place Canada is.
True to form, Molson has produced a brilliant collection of inspiring ‘GO TEAM’ graphics during the 2014 Winter OIympic games in Sochi. They’ve been saturating my Twitter feed every day, and it makes me smile. Molson is doing a fantastic job of showcasing Canadian pride, and having a great time owning each and every stereotype that most Canadians are proud to admit are actually quite true.
Here’s some of the top pics they’ve sent out so far…
Their timing is perfect, their captions brilliant, their graphics spectacular. It’s no wonder these are easily some of the most-shared images from any brand participating in Olympic marketing. Nicely done, Molson Canadian. You’ve once again assured your place as one of the definitive Canadian brands. Kudos, and I can’t wait to see what you’ve got in the hopper for when Canada inevitably wins the last gold of the games!
Oh, and here’s my personal favourite … . so far. :)
This post exists because of this Tweet…
Yes, I know it’s a dated meme that’s been driven in to the ground, and I’m ok with that. In fact, because this is a meme from ancient internet history, it makes it even more appropriate for this topic because this is something that should just not happen anymore, and yet it happens all the time.. So, here’s a post inspired by that all-too-true tweet from 20kGroup and Matthew Carberry, along with couple more things that still happen in social media that should have been wiped from existence ages ago.
It’s 2014, everyone. These things need to stop.
Don’t pick fights with your customers. Ever. Because you will lose more than you think. Yes, you’ll lose that customer, but you’ll also lose something much more important: RESPECT. Nobody wants to do business with someone who’s confrontational and too proud for their own good. Your brand can’t win here so take it offline, solve the problem, and move on.
If you still send Auto-DM’s… (Thanks to @erinbury)
Why does this still happen? Auto DM’s are the least-social way to say anything in social media. Proponents of Auto-DM’s say it’s simply the easiest way to show appreciation for a new follower. Well, I’m sure your followers are truly grateful that you’ve put forth the absolute bare minimum of effort to thank them. If you really appreciate new followers, then take the time to thank them personally. And in the name of all that is good in this world, don’t tell me to follow you on Facebook too.
If you think your personal posts don’t impact your employers brand… (I came up with this one)
I’ve got news for you: If I see someone swearing a blue streak in the parking lot of a store, you better believe that it will change my opinion of that store if they walk in and stand behind the counter for their shift. Same thing applies in social media. On or off the clock, on your own account or on theirs, you are intertwined with your employers brand, not because your boss says so, but because the CUSTOMERS say so.
Here I am, jumping on the Three-Words bandwagon created by the one and only Chris Brogan. It’s a tradition that I am more than happy to adopt because of its elegant simplicity. Three words, no more, no less, that serve as inspiration, clarity, and focus for the upcoming year. Three little words that can make a difference in how you feel and how you live. Three little words that can be the difference between ‘more of the same’ and ‘the year things got better’.
Seeing how this is my first attempt at crafting a Three-Words focus for the year, I struggled at the onset with how to really approach this. Do I focus on work? Do I focus on personal life? Do I go all philosophical? Then I realized, why does it need to be limited to one aspect of my life? Why can’t there be three words that transcend my whole being? I can, and will, choose three words to make me better across the board.
Let’s start the insanity…
1) Encourage - Encouragement is one of the most valuable things you can give to another person. To say YES when others say NO. To say GO when others say STOP. My family, friends, students, and colleagues deserve encouragement to strive for great things, to achieve more, and to grab what they want from life. This year, I will be their cheering section.
2) Run - Literally and figuratively. I lost my habit of running a few years ago, and my body has paid the price. Getting softer around the middle is not something I am ok with. 2014 I will run again, if only in fair weather. (Hey, I’m all about improvement, but I’ve never been a huge fan of running in sub-zero temps). But more than just the physical act, I will also run with things that I believe to be important. Taking inspiration and running with it gives me immense satisfaction. Even if some things ultimately don’t turn out how I want them to, I don’t want 2014 to be a year full of ‘what ifs’.
3) Savour - There’s a lot of good that happens in our lives, every day. How often do we really recognize, and take the time to savour it? This year, I’m going to do it a lot. Moments with family, and moments of solitude. Wins at work, and wins at home. Inspiration from old friends, and inspiration from new connections. This will be a year of recognizing the positive, not focusing on the negative.
Maybe these are too lofty, but if I can progress a little further towards each one, then I’ll consider this year a success. Improvement need not come in leaps and bounds. Sometimes it comes one small step at a time.
What will your three words be for 2014?
“Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not.” - Aragorn to King Theoden, Lord of the Rings
I’m not going to tell you that a crucial shift is coming in business. I’m not going to tell you that, simply because it’s already happened. We’re already in the midst of the Content War, and if your business hasn’t taken steps to mobilize, you’re potentially losing ground to your competition already. Businesses of all kinds are producing content at an astonishing rate, and it’s making a difference for those who do it right. The good news? It’s not too late to take up arms.
I’m not going to get too in-depth on what qualifies as ‘content’, or more appropriately, ‘good content’. For the best resource on this, check out the awesome book “Content Rules” by C.C Chapman and Ann Handley. Suffice to say that whatever your content consists of, whether it be articles, images, videos, or a combination of all three, the overarching qualifier necessary to register as ‘good content’ is VALUE. Whatever you produce for your audience, it’s got to be valuable.
Nobody builds authority, expertise, or trust with garbage content. Delivering value to your audience is the only way to gain ground in the Content War.
Time to get deeper in to what factors impact the success of your team, and are necessary to actually deliver that value to your audience. How does one business gain an advantage over their competition in the Content War? By being superior across a variety of measures, none of which have anything to do with having the deepest pockets.
You’ll be the most effective in the Content War if you have:
Superior Intel - Don’t confuse intelligence with data. Raw numbers are useless without context and interpretation. First, look where the action is happening and examine the types of content that are generating action and engagement. Understand what your audience craves for content, and then understand why they crave it. Ask yourself “What is it about that piece of content that delivers value for them?” Look, listen, and figure out what you can give that they want. This will give you a purpose for your content.
Superior Supply Chain - How do you get the content from the idea stage to being in front of your audience in the best possible way? Who in your organization is the best person(s) to provide the raw materials you need to create your audience’s desired content? Who can take that raw material and turn it in to a usable product? Who is the best person to deliver the content in a timely manner in the right location? These all may be the same person, or all different people. Identify the best team to have in place to take content from concept to reality and deliver it.
Superior Training - What tools will you use? What are the intricacies of navigating through the necessary networks to reach your audience? Squeezing the most from the tools you have available helps you maximize the impact of your content. Your team should be trained on the ins-and-outs of whatever platforms and tools you’re using to create, distribute, and monitor your content.
Superior Tactics - You know what kinds of content to make. You know who the best people are to help make that content. And you know how and where to post it. The next question is WHEN to post it. The brilliant Gary Vaynerchuk once said that content is one thing, but CONTEXT is truly where the power comes from. Creating the greatest content the world has ever seen is all for naught if it has no context. This article might as well be called the “Relevance War”, because that’s really where we are headed. Posting the right stuff at the right time is how you become the most relevant. Be tactical about what you post, when you post it, and where.
Superior Leadership - Leadership matters, not at just the level of the Generals and Admirals, but at the Squad Leader level. Bring everyone in the loop on what your objectives are in the Content War. Allow them to be flexible, to adapt to changing battle conditions. Never stop learning. Never stop pushing. Having superior leadership gives clarity of purpose across all levels.
Finally, be aware that involvement in the Content War is not optional. The magnificent quote at the beginning of this article sums it up quite nicely. "Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not." While a business may elect not to create, this does not exclude that business from being compared to all the others who do. In a world full of conquerors, as the world of business truly is, how long will a business last if they stand idly by? Good content is authority, expertise, trust, and visibility. Good content is value, not just for your customers, but for your business. Good content is relevance.
Time to take up arms, and join the battle.
I take branding really seriously. It matters. And not just for the company in question, but for everyone connected to it. Customers, distributors, partners, suppliers, etc. And what I see happening to the great city of Toronto is one of the most tragic examples of unjustified brand damage in recent memory.
There’s no reason for Toronto’s brand to be going through what it currently is, and I think that this is due partially to the parties involved not truly realizing the long-reaching effects this could have on the city as a whole.
For example, let’s take a quick look at what happens when the CEO of a major corporation goes off and makes an utter mockery of a once-proud brand. Simply look at what’s happened to brands like Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch, Kenneth Cole, and the likes simply due to some callous and ignorant comments made by their CEO’s. Their brand value has taken a major hit, and one could argue strongly that their position in the mind of their customers and in the marketplace may never be what it once was. Competitors with stronger, cleaner, more honest brands start looking really good to your customers.
What if that happens to the largest city in Canada? How will this stigma of the hot-headed crack-smoking mayor in a constant state of denial label Toronto to the rest of the world?
What will be the economic impacts? Will investments in business and infrastructure be scrutinized more closely before commitments are made? Will this result in businesses considering alternatives with renewed interest? There are factors at play here that go far beyond just ‘the mayor’.
Right now, Toronto is a joke worldwide. It was funny for a while, then it got sad, then funny again, and now it’s truly distressing. And it won’t be something that is forgotten quickly. A city’s leadership matters just the same as a business’ leadership matters. Every brand has a figurehead, for better or worse. They embody the brand. If they aren’t aligned, there are consequences.
He needs to go, if for no other reason than Toronto’s brand can’t afford him. The city needs a leader reflective of the true nature of the city, and Ford is not that leader. He needs help, that much is certain. And at this point, so does Toronto.